TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Col. DJ Reyes as the 36th Lightning Community Hero this season today at Bay Legal Services in Tampa. Col. Reyes, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate to Bay Legal Services, Hillsborough County Veterans Helping Veterans and Mentors for Hillsborough County Veterans. Despite the NHL pause, the Lightning will continue to honor the final Community Heroes of the season, including today's at Bay Legal Services. Each week the Lightning will travel to the hero's charity of choice to honor the great work done by the chosen Heroes. The Community Hero award is proudly celebrated by Jabil, who is the sponsor of the Lightning Community Hero Program.
Since Col. Reyes' retirement, he has continued to serve the Tampa Bay community by helping veterans in need through the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline. Tampa's Veterans Treatment Court was established in 2013 with very little funding, but that didn't stop Col. Reyes from volunteering as the first veteran mentor of the program. The purpose of the court is to end the cycle of crime and poverty that often begins when vets return to civilian life. Since 2013, Col. Reyes and his network of mentors have helped more than 600 veterans graduate from the program.
Col. Reyes' goal is to help veterans who are willing to complete the program receive the necessary resources they need for a second chance, which includes treatment for drug abuse to referrals for valid identification or housing grants. He has also built up a network of resources so that he can ensure veterans receive any assistance in or out of the courtroom. Col. Reyes has become a community figure over the past several years that veterans feel comfortable turning to for help, while maintaining the dignity they deserve.
Col. Reyes becomes the 401st Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through today's presentation, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $20.2 million to more than 750 different nonprofits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. During the summer of 2016, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10 million over the next five seasons.